What did Tuesday’s primary results mean? According to the Chairman of the Arlington Democrats, it meant that affordable housing will be the central issue of the fall election.
Chairman Malinosky’s job is to spin the election results in a way that he sees as benefitting his party. But reading into the results of a six way primary for two spots is virtually impossible, particularly when five of the six candidates received a substantial share of the vote.
When there is little substantively differentiating the candidates on issues, these elections are won by the quality of the candidate and the quality of the campaign operation. Cristol and Dorsey simply outperformed their opponents on the campaign trail to claim the top two spots.
Election analysis aside, what about affordable housing?
Throughout the last decade, the County Board has had a stated goal of improving housing affordability. And, this has been a County Board controlled exclusively by Democrats until last year. Yet, there is little the County Board has tried on the housing front over the last decade has changed the trajectory of housing affordability. In fact, our Board relies on these ever-increasing property values to fund its lavish spending habits.
If in fact, it has become the top issue for the voters in Arlington, it could be argued it is because of a major failure of Chairman Malinosky’s own party. Is the Chairman of the Arlington Democrats actually making the case that the voters should reject his nominees and add two more Independents to the County Board?
Probably not. But, if Cristol or Dorsey stand up at a forum and say they are going to address affordable housing, will they be able to answer the question: what would you try that is different than the policies that have already failed?
Maybe a majority of Arlingtonians would commit to higher taxes in the name of spending hundreds of millions more over the next decade to subsidize housing. You would be right to be skeptical that Cristol, Dorsey or even Malinosky will make that their topline talking point.
Yes, we can continue to do the things we have been doing that have met with limited success. We can revisit the approval of accessory dwelling units and in-law suites. The Board can even approve the development of micro units in Crystal City as Katie Cristol suggested.
At some point, maybe we will all just admit that housing is simply not going to be affordable in Arlington over the long haul. It is the laws of supply and demand at work. Arlington is conveniently located to our nation’s capitol and people are willing to pay a premium to live here. At the same time, governments have been trying to change the laws of economics for years, so I wouldn’t look for the Arlington County Board to stop claiming it can now.